M A I N   N E W S

SC flays Patna HC for derogatory remarks
against apex court
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, May 4
Dealing with a unique question for the first time in its history whether the high courts are subordinate to the Supreme Court or not, the apex court has ruled that it has never been intended so in the Constitutional scheme. But it did flay the Patna High Court for passing “derogatory and disparaging” remarks against the Supreme Court after it sought information from the high court about a case.

“We direct... to expunge and score out as derogatory to this court (apex court), disparaging, totally uncalled for and making observations on the proceedings of this court, which the High Court should have not made.” a Bench consisting of Mr Justice R.C. Lahoti and Mr Justice Ashok Bhan said.

The Bench, however, said under the Constitutional scheme, “The Supreme Court and the High Courts both are courts of record. The High Court is not a court subordinate to the Supreme Court. In a way the canvass of judicial powers vested in the High Court is wider inasmuch as it has jurisdiction to issue all prerogative writs under Article 226 of the Constitution.”

Besides, the High Court exercised the power of superintendence under Article 227 over all subordinate courts and tribunals and the Supreme Court had not been conferred with any power of superintendence, it held.

But this did not give right to the High Court to pass such remarks against the Supreme Court, while it was exercising its power of appellate jurisdiction conferred on it by the Constitution, the apex court held.

It said under the Constitutional scheme, the justice delivery system in the country was homogenous in content, taking care of independence and hierarchy both, and holding the scales of balance even while doing so. “So far as the appellate jurisdiction is concerned, in all civil and criminal matters, the Supreme Court is the highest and ultimate court of appeal as it is the final interpreter of the law,” the Bench ruled.

“If the Supreme Court and the High Courts both were to be thought of as brothers in the administration of justice, the High Court has larger jurisdiction but the Supreme Court still remains the elder brother. There are a few provisions, which gives an edge and assigns a superior place in the hierarchy to the Supreme Court,” it said.

The question arose from the December 3, 2003 order of a Patna High Court division bench, headed by the Chief Justice, in which certain stinging remarks were passed against the Supreme Court for seeking explanation by its Registrar General from the High Court Registrar when an application was moved before it alleging that the High Court was not proceeding ahead with a case of Tirupati Balaji Developers Pvt Ltd.

The Supreme Court said there was no occasion for the High Court to make this communication a matter of judicial proceedings as the apex court had only sought information from the High Court Registrar on administrative side.

It was unfortunate that the High Court Bench, that too headed by its Chief Justice, had passed “derogatory” observations against the Supreme Court Bench, which was headed by the Chief Justice of India, the Bench observed.

“Such procedure is followed quite often and nobody has ever taken any exception to this barring the singular instance we are dealing with,” the Bench said, adding the normal course was that the apex court order should have been complied with the order.

There was absolutely no occasion for the High Court to feel “annoyed and disturbed, much less to feel perturbed and react in the manner in which it has unfortunately done,” the Supreme Court said, adding by an innocuous communication, the High Court was not reduced to the status of a litigant, neither was it intended to undermine its authority.

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